It was time for a rather late lunch coming from Guia Fortress and the Grand Prix Museum. But we didn’t mind eating late since the Macanese Food at Ristorante Litoral was a fitting reward from our little hikes under the sun. As we were about to finish, Joao told us we should drop by A-Ma Temple since there’s a Chinese Opera performing which is part of the week long A-Ma festival being held.
The A-Ma Temple is only a very short walk from Ristorante Litoral. The Temple is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites listed under the Historic Center of Macau. It is the oldest temple in Macau and predates even the Portuguese.
The name Macau was actually derived from the temple name. When the Portuguese first landed on the island, it was near the temple and when they were asking what place is this, the locals told them “A-Ma-Gau” temple which means Bay of A-Ma temple. The Portuguese translated this to Macau ever since.
Being one of the top tourist attractions, the temple is crowded as expected. It didn’t deter me from exploring some of its area. Squeezing through the crowd along passageways, I found that beyond the sightseeing crowd are fervent Chinese devotees observing their deep practice and culture.
On the main prayer hall dedicated to Mazu, the goddess of seafarers and fishermen, the room is almost filled with incenses and wall covered in Chinese prayer money with inscriptions. There are other sections in this old temple built in 1488.
We visited A-ma temple during its week-long festival and was able to see a few activities around the temple grounds. A Chinese Opera was running in front of the temple. The stage was built using bamboos and wood panels but the ground was sturdy enough to seat more than a hundred people.
We were fortunate enough to get access to the backstage where we saw how the actors and actresses put on their make ups, rehearse their scripts and also see their huge collection of costumes or clothes they use. Behind the curtains were also the musicians responsible for the mood of the play. I also noticed a small shrine which Joao later pointed out brings good luck to their performances.
It’s not only the Chinese who celebrate the festival. At certain hours of the day, a Portuguese dance troop to the grounds in front of the temple and perform several Portuguese Dances. It’s a very entertaining performance and this festival clearly displays the melding of cultures throughout the years
Don’t miss Backpack Photography’s Explore Lake Sebu Photo Tour. A Journey into the T’boli culture and Lake Sebu’s natural wonders. Join us on August 21-23, 2010. Check Backpackphotography.net for full details and registration.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.